Colorado Hero Rallies Community to Help Vietnam Vet Who Lost Everything in a Wildfire

by Matthew Memrick
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A group of veterans in Colorado helped one Vietnam veteran avoid eviction last month with an organized clean-up.

FOX 31 reported on Zach Smith’s efforts to help a fellow veteran clean his property. The man learned of the desperate situation from another friend.

“When I got up there, I was like ‘Man, this was a lot more than you, and I or just a small handful of volunteers can accomplish,'” Smith told the television station.

That’s when Smith started “Operation Burn Scar” on Aug. 28. He organized it through his company, US Veteran Woodworks.

Veteran Affected By Wildfire

Smith said the older gentleman was one of 5,469 people caught up in the 2013 Black Forest wildfire tragedy. At the time, he was part of a 24,000-acre evacuation area.

The veteran lost 10 acres to the blaze, with over 300 trees destroyed. The man also lost valuables like a woodshop full of old tools and giant bandsaws. Tons of scrap metal and dead trees also littered the property. County code enforcement officials told him he was in violation.

Sadly, the veteran, who was in his 70s, had health problems. Smith said the stressed man could never get the property cleaned by himself.

Smith organized a group through social media and planned the event.

“There was every age group, there were 70-year-olds rolling chain saws, there was kids picking up wood. You could leave that place knowing that you did something good for somebody,” Smith said.

Smith said cleaning day had massive results with 20 tons of scrap metal, 150 cut down trees, and 150 cleared trees.

The veteran said the man’s “whole demeanor” had changed by the end of the day.

“That this many people would come out and help an older gentleman and not get paid for it, and just do it out of the kindness of their heart was mind-blowing for this guy,” Smith said.

Helping Other Veterans

According to his website, Smith is a former Army medic who served four years at the Evans Army Community Hospital. He’s also got another job as a wooden flag maker.

“I pride myself in being one of the most detailed and intricate flag makers in the world – streamlining the most vibrant colors and professionally bringing custom designs to life – all from a one-car garage,” Smith said.

The television station’s Serving Those Who Serve program gave Smith a $500 Visa gift card for his efforts.

Smith did not have plans for the recognition but said he would do something good with it.

He said he recognizes those veterans who “answered the call with multiple wars and attacks against our country,” and his efforts are essential in paying back the time they spent to help protect our country

“All he had to do was say help, and that’s what we did,” Smith said.